The Hong Kong government has refused to say if protest song Glory to Hong Kong is illegal under the national security law, despite a ban by the Education Bureau in schools.

Last week, the government claimed that the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” was illegal under the new national security law, as it had connotations of Hong Kong independence, or separating the city from China, altering its legal status or subverting state power.

2019 protest laser tear gas
Photo: Jimmy Lam/USP & HKFP.

It was prohibited under the Beijing-enforced security legislation, which also criminalises terrorist acts and collusion with foreign forces. Violators face up to life imprisonment.

The slogan –  coined in 2016 by ex-localist leader Edward Leung, ousted lawmaker Baggio Leung and a former Youngspiration member – also forms part of the lyrics for Glory to Hong Kong, which was dubbed the “anthem” of the city’s year-long pro-democracy movement.

The Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung said on Wednesday that schools must not allow students to play, sing and broadcast the song on campuses. He said the song contained “strong political messages” and was closely linked to violence and illegal acts.

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Last June, large-scale protests broke out in Hong Kong in opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill. The demonstrations sometimes escalated into violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid anger over Beijing’s encroachment.

In response to HKFP enquires, a government spokesperson only repeated that the slogan has pro-independence, secessionist or subversive intent, without mentioning the protest song.

“If any criminal act of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activity, or collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security is involved, it may constitute offence(s) under Chapter III of the National Security Law,” a spokesperson said in an email reply on Friday.

national security police flag
New police warning banner that cautions against behaviour that may breach the national security law. Photo: Studio Incendo.

The government added: “Every case will be handled having regard to all the relevant circumstances, which include the facts, conduct, intent, as well as the evidence gathered, and in accordance with relevant laws.”

When asked to clarify whether the song was illegal or not under the national security law, the spokesperson asked HKFP to refer to their previous comment.

On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam also did not respond to the same question raised by HKFP at the weekly press briefing before the Executive Council meeting.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.